BOSTON - Reactions to the Celtics' historic trade may have been mixed, but there was no denying it was a goosebumps moment when Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen walked out from behind the curtain together for the first time Tuesday night at the TD Banknorth Garden.

Reactions to the Celtics' historic trade may have been mixed, but there was no denying it was a goosebumps moment when Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen walked out from behind the curtain together for the first time Tuesday night at the TD Banknorth Garden.

With 22 All-Star appearances between them, and combined averages of 73.8 points, 23.2 rebounds and 12.3 assists last season, the new triumvirate of Boston basketball stepped onto the stage with unrelenting smiles that matched the brilliance of the seven diamonds spread across their three sets of ears. After successive seasons playing losing basketball apart, the trio is hoping that will change once united.

After acquiring Allen in a draft-night deal, the Celtics linked the three-pronged puzzle yesterday when they completed a trade for Garnett that included a multiyear contract extension for the 10-time All-Star and sent away five players - including budding star Al Jefferson and young fan favorites Ryan Gomes and Gerald Green - along with two future first-round draft picks.

``I think this is a tremendous day for Ray, Kevin, myself and the whole organization,'' said Pierce. ``They have always been passionate about winning and they showed it this summer.

``I know we are giving up a lot,'' Pierce continued, ``but I have been preaching that you need veterans to win in this game. They did everything they could to bring in a team that this city can get excited about.''

After some initial reluctance, Garnett came around to the excitement of that possibility, and his change of heart re-ignited trade talks that stalled shortly before the draft. He said he originally did not want to leave Minnesota - where he spent the first 12 years of his career - but as he reconciled that the Timberwolves were eyeing a full-fledged rebuilding project, he warmed to the idea of joining Pierce and longtime friend Allen.

``The more and more I realized that Minnesota's interests were very different than mine, I had to think of different alternatives,'' said Garnett, who averaged 22.4 points, a league-leading 12.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists last season. ``There was no way I was going to be able to go to some other franchise and have this caliber of talent next to me.''

Ironically, Garnett's balking at a trade to Boston last month contributed to the Celtics dealing for seven-time All-Star Allen. Allen's presence along with Pierce in Boston then helped convince Garnett to reevaluate his future.

``When Boston traded for Ray Allen,'' he said, ``that whole situation changed for me.''

Now the whole outlook has changed for a team that finished with the second-worst record in the NBA last season (24-58) and had fans pinning much of their hopes on getting lucky with Ping-Pong balls that would bring them the best available teenager.

Lottery misfortune then shifted their focus toward the 31-year-old Garnett and 32-year-old Allen teaming up with the 29-year-old Pierce.

``At this point of my career, I can't do young,'' Garnett said. ``I echo what Paul said earlier, that you need veterans to win in this league.''

``We have all been in the same situations on teams where we have had to carry the load for a number of years,'' noted Pierce. ``As you all know, you can't win that way.''

Celtics executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge was also quick to note that the new power trio had yet to accomplish anything together yet.

``These guys will never be the Big Three (Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale) until they win. They know that,'' he said.

Ainge also accepted that he still has a lot of work to do filling out a roster left terribly short on reserves from the swap.

But as Pierce, Garnett and Allen joked, ribbed and cracked each other up, it was obvious that this was a night for optimism.

``I remember watching this organization going back to the days when they battled against the Lakers,'' said Allen. ``Every time an opponent came in here, they were afraid to walk into the Garden. I think those are the days we are headed back to here. Opponents will walk into this building knowing that they have a lot to be afraid of and not just from one position.''

Allen talked about the ``swagger'' he will gain from being on the floor with Garnett and Pierce. Pierce agreed that their skills should bring out the best in each other's games.

``I'm also a fan of the game,'' the captain said. ``I know how unselfish they are. I know how unselfish I am and I know we are going to do everything we can to make it work. As I told Danny in the back, I feel like I am a rookie again.''

Garnett said he feels a rush of excitement as well. ``It's like being in a Lamborghini going 200 (miles per hour) with your head stuck out the window,'' he began.

``You really done that?'' a laughing Pierce interrupted.

``I'm just telling you that it's been like a whirlwind,'' Garnett responded.

One that's just getting going.